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She maintains that Bell, because of his work with the deaf and other related knowledge, was able to discern the sound coming through the wire as a breakthrough because of that knowledge. It was an accident that was backed up by much preparation. Cheever then writes:. From the perspective of , the writing of Little Women looked like an accident. Yet the accidents that caused the writing of Little Women , seen in hindsight, look more like destiny.

As inspiring as that chapter was, there were big problems throughout this book beginning with an almost total lack of inclusion of her three sisters in the narrative who played such a enormous role in her life. May got the most ink — a few pages. Anna received practically nothing which, when considering how inseparable she and Louisa were in their youth, is puzzling. I also felt her theory, that Louisa was not especially loved by her parents, was not tenable. To me, Abba who also was not mentioned all that much in the book was shown to be a tremendous support to Louisa, writing encouraging notes in her journal, empathizing with her moods and anger and so forth.

Louisa was obviously devoted to her mother, having sacrificed so much for her care. There were obvious errors in the book too, such as mentioning that Lizzie, the 3rd sister, was the youngest. I noticed 3 or 4 times that this error was made. Here I was very moved. It was an enjoyable book, worth reading and I experienced my usual sense of sadness and emptiness at having to part with yet another friend.

I agree with your points that the sisters were hardly mentioned when we know they were a tight knit family. I do think there was a bond there. Now Alcott was a neighbor, a pensioner, and a needy friend. Alcott, he had come to think, was only truly interested in Alcott.


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The examples Alcott used to illustrate his ideas always came from his own life, and he seemed ready to abandon everything, even his wife and children, in order to pursue some new idea that was based on nothing more than some high-flown language. He thought it was nothing. Henry left the Emersons to nurse his brother, who was raving and in terrible pain.

Thoreau, after burying his only brother, seemed to have some kind of breakdown. He also thought he was suffering from tetanus. Slowly he recovered.

Louisa May Alcott (1950)

Then later in January, Emerson once again was faced with an unthinkable loss when his five-year-old son Waldo contracted scarlet fever. Three days later, the boy was dead, and Emerson grieved fiercely.

Louisa May Alcott, A Personal Biography by Susan Cheever

Fled out of my arms like a dream. She never forgot the broken man who answered the door. Gaunt and grey, Emerson was almost unrecognizable when he told Louisa that his son was dead. Now, Alcott himself seemed to be in deep trouble. By , he had four girls, a wife whose father had practically disowned her, at least as far as the present was concerned, and who had recently suffered a miscarriage.

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As always, in spite of her own hard life, Abba Alcott was worried about her brilliant husband. So amid all this grief, only two. He added a letter of introduction to Thomas Carlyle in London, a man whom Emerson had met and also revered. Alcott was thrilled. Once again his hoping had been proved to be correct. Bronson would be away for six months of the three years the Alcott family spent in the Hosmer Cottage, and these were months—four of them summer months—which Louisa enjoyed to the fullest.

As they swished down the shallow river, the landscape seemed to come alive when Thoreau pointed out the way the scarlet tanagers lit up the scene, or a great horned owl perched on a log in a way that made it look just like a branch, or a heron stood on one impossibly thin leg in the middle of a sandbar waiting for fish. Louisa was ten years old going on eleven. She was a girl who had experienced some of the most severe deprivation imaginable and plenty of what we now might call abuse, but she was also being schooled in one of the most beautiful places on earth by some of the greatest minds of the century.

Bronson was delighted by London, where he met Carlyle and was feted by the growing leaders of the reform movement.

Susan Cheever and *Louisa May Alcott: A Personal Biography* | Concord, MA Patch

He was even more enchanted by the school at Ham Common named after him. Everyone he met pleased him. Unfortunately his principal admirer, James Greaves, had died in the interim, but there were many other admirers to take his place. The men Bronson met—Henry Gardiner Wright, the headmaster of Alcott House, and Charles Lane, one of its backers—seemed to understand him as he had never before been understood. Transformed from an obscure, small-town failure, a debtor, and an object of mockery in Concord to a progressive hero in London, Bronson Alcott could hardly believe his luck.

Then he referred to a new plan that may have caused sharp ambivalence in his wife and daughters. How he could have thought that the problematic Henry Wright and Charles Lane and his son could blend in with his own boisterous family in a tiny cottage in a remote Massachusetts village is hard to imagine. But Bronson, as always, hoped for the best.

So on September 28, , Alcott; Wright, who left his wife and baby behind because of the difficulty of the voyage; and Charles Lane, his son, and his life savings, all set sail on the ship Leland. Soon enough the little Hosmer Cottage was far too small for the fan club Bronson brought with him. Loyal Emerson had faithfully called at the Hosmer Cottage and invited Wright and Lane to stay in his larger house.

Lane apparently needed to be the man in charge. The Alcotts allowed him to control them; Emerson did not.

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As the days grew colder and night came sooner and sooner—and New England winters are brutal—the Hosmer Cottage seemed to shrink. The despotic Lane had become a power in the household, usurping the Alcott parents. Lane was the only one of them who had any money, and this may have contributed to the way Abba and Bronson turned their children over to a regimen of cold baths at 6 A. Lane, and very little time for running free and indulging in play. Lane and Alcott began looking for a place in which they might begin a new world order. Henry Wright was the first defector. At first he had seemed to be missing the wife and baby he had left behind in England, but at a reform meeting he went to with Lane and Alcott, he met a woman named Mary Gove.

Gove had been married to an older man whom she despised and had devoted her life to demonstrating for feminist and reform causes. For her it was love at first sight. Although less crowded with Wright gone, the Hosmer Cottage atmosphere seemed to breed delusions. But destabilizing God seems to have occasionally been too much for Bronson Alcott; at the Temple School it was the Gospels, taught with a portrait of Jesus at his back that started the trouble.

Now, in search of his own earthly kingdom, Alcott seemed to get loonier and loonier.

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Louisa May Alcott: A Personal Biography

He refused to pay his taxes—much as his friend Thoreau would do two years later—and was arrested by a local official, Sam Staples, who held him in jail until a neighbor bailed him out. In theory, Bronson Alcott and his family were embarked on the dream of a harmonious community. In practice, they were living in a Yankee version of a banana republic ruled by a petty despot who decreed that plates were a silly luxury, so the family meal of apples and bread was eaten off napkins.

Lane also commanded that no one should eat cheese or milk or sugar, and that the family must continue to feed a poor neighbor family even when their own stomachs were growling. Abba Alcott was treated like a servant, responsible for arranging laundry and housekeeping.